Women's Aid has called for a cyberstalking "offence be introduced in Irish law" to better protect women from digital abuse.

The organisation's call coincides with today being International Day Opposing Violence against Women.

Women's Aid wants all-encompassing legislation to account for digital abuse and stalking and for a better understanding of the harmful nature of digital abuse.

41% of abused women experience digital abuse and stalking, a new snapshot of data from Women's Aid shows, while a recent EU-wide study shows that  a total of 12% of Irish women and girls over the age of 15 had experienced stalking, with 50% of those being stalked by a partner or former partner physically and online.

"There is a growing awareness in policy circles of the need to address cyber-harassment and related harmful internet content and of its damaging impact on young people who are active users of social media," a Women's Aid statement said.  

"However, awareness of the extent and impact of women being abused by their intimate partners is significantly lower," it added.

The director of Women's Aid has said abusive partners are using a range of technology, such as spyware, to control women.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Margaret Martin said social media makes it easier to intimidate partners, even if the relationship has ended, because a person's life can be monitored.

"What we're talking about is where the internet is being used and where there are things like electronic spyware, so where there's devices been put on women's phones, where there's cameras being used," Ms Martin said. 

"Even if the woman has separated and has left, he has a really good insight into her daily routines, her daily habits, her circle of friends - he knows where to look. Even if she closes down her Facebook page he can look at her family's."

Ms Martin said that while it is generally men abusing women, there is research to show women have also used the technology to abuse men.

She said cyber harassment and cybercrime are growing and there needs to be new legislation to reflect this.

"[In] the new domestic-violence legislation, there is a proviso in it that is about contact between parties but there's not a proviso about communication about the party," she said. 

"Now one of the things we hear very persistently is that an abusive partner is using the internet to spread bad rumours, ruin her reputation. So really all of those things need to be looked at now because I think we're at the cusp of a whole new generation of legislation."

Ms Martin was speaking ahead of the Women's Aid International Day Opposing Violence against Women Conference being held in Dublin today.